This time of year makes me sentimental. I have to admit there have been some teary evenings when I start thinking of family and friends in the U.S. and all of the holiday traditions we have built with our girls over the past ten years. Christmas music makes me so happy and can cause me to cry in an instant. A few days ago, Jason bought me a wild and crazy two-foot Christmas tree with blinking lights, gaudy golden bows, and shiny red bells. It made me smile. Decorating for Christmas took less than an hour, but the girls were ecstatic as they unpacked a few favorite ornaments.
Although we miss friends and family, God has provided us with an amazing community in Addis Ababa. We celebrated Thanksgiving twice with people from all over the world. On Thursday, we shared a meal with Bingham Academy teachers and families, complete with paper turkeys and a football game projected on the wall. While sitting with families from the U.S., Germany, and Australia, we explained our Thanksgiving traditions. They were perplexed by the green Jell-O salad, but were happy to share in the celebration. During our Saturday neighborhood party, my girls ran around in shorts, playing with their friends on the field. Jason helped to grill chickens over a coal fire pit with some veteran missionaries and I finished an apple pie and mashed potatoes just in time for an outdoor meal with over 100 new friends.
The tables were beautifully decorated with pumpkins, scarves, and Ethiopian peppers for color. You may remember that Sarah loves sweet, red peppers. Well, just before dessert, Sarah decided to indulge in part of our centerpiece. As you can imagine this set off alarms in her mouth and eyes. She wiped her tears with her “peppery” hands and then came wailing to us: “My eyes are spicy! My eyes are spicy!” After a shower to flush out her eyes and pouring some salt on her tongue, she was fine. I never considered warning my children about centerpieces.
God is so good and we are thankful. We are grateful for our home, our jobs, our friends, and family. We are amazed by the opportunity to serve in Ethiopia and we appreciate everyone who has helped us to get here.
This weekend I had the privilege to speak to over 150 Young Life volunteers and staff at their 2011 Leadership Retreat, just outside of Addis Ababa. I spoke about self-leadership and the redemptive power of Jesus through the lens of Peter’s life. The Peter of Acts 3 is an unshakable leader who listens to the prompting of God, heals a crippled beggar, and then uses the opportunity to share the gospel with all those at the Temple. Although Peter’s life prior to this was marked with fear, selfishness, and false motives, Jesus did not abandon the one he chose. Peter was restored on the beach in John 21 and the guilt wall that separated him from Jesus was knocked down. An encouragement for us all.